Watch Phonte & Antoine Harris Perform Their Battle Raps From “The Breaks” (Videos)
Last night, Vh1 aired The Breaks, a Hip-Hop inspired film set in 1990s New York City. Featuring DJ Premier as music supervisor, Phonte Coleman as lyrical ghostwriter, actor Wood Harris, MC Torae, and many others, the movie serves as an homage to the formative years of Hip-Hop’s rise to pop-culture infamy and it has already sparked calls for a television series. In celebration of the film’s success, Watch Loud invited Coleman and Harris to not only perform their battle-rap verses from the film, but also to discuss the inspiration behind their characters (Imam Ali and Ahm, respectively) in the film. In the latest installment of “Verse Behavior,” the two performers add some really vivid perspectives into the film’s backstory, as they bring their characters to life.
First up is Phonte, the North Carolina MC whose work alongside Rapper Big Pooh and 9th Wonder resulted in Little Brother was followed by the acclaimed work he’s done as the frontman and singer for the Foreign Exchange. In his segment, he provides viewers with the inner workings of creating the lyrics for not only his character, but also that of Harris. “In writing Ahm’s [lyrics] I really wanted to express to the people where he comes from and see how his mind works. How a person can have intelligence but circumstances have lead him into the life that he’s in. Even though in the movie he does some pretty horrible things I didn’t want make him a complete monster,” he says. Some of the lyrics he’s discussing include references to slavery and the absence of a father in his challenger’s personal life, which he explains was initially supposed to be “comic relief, I guess. When everyone is battling trying to go at each other and Imam Ali is the guy trying to kick knowledge. He trying to preach and shit and it’s like dawg, we’re not here for that. We trying’ to battle and you talking’ about pyramids and shit. We’re not in Social Studies class.”
Antoine Harris, known for his role on the HBO series Ballers, plays another battling MC whose “Verse Behavior” performance includes bars that he hoped added to Ahm being “a multifaceted character who could rap.” He wanted to create Ahm with the idea that he could be something bigger than his doubters think he is, making him an underdog that people love to cheer for. “Ahm knows where he is, even if everybody else doesn’t know where he is,” Harris explains. When it came down to creating Ahm the rapper, Harris shares that he wanted the character to “have timing like Biggie, but have presence like Pac, but I want him to have focus like Jay…In certain parts of the rap I’m a storyteller, in certain parts of the rap I’m a straight goon [and] in certain parts I just say how ill I am.”